Naomi Klein Joins Thousands of Protesters to Occupy Wells Fargo Corporate HQ
At 7:30 this morning about 2,500 protesters “foreclosed” on Wells Fargo’s corporate headquarters in San Francisco’s financial district. The raucous but peaceful group — made up of union members, those who have camped out in front of the Federal Reserve Building for the past three weeks as part of the Occupy Wall Street movement and a lot of ordinary citizens who have been roused out of their slumber by the economic catastrophe of the past few years — surrounded the building on all four sides. Protesters jammed themselves into the doorways, shutting down the mega-bank for some time.
About an hour after I arrived, police moved in and cleared out a back door in an alley behind Montgomery Street. I saw 6 arrested; a legal observer told me that there were 11 arrested in total. When I departed, perhaps 30 more were still occupying two doors to the bank, so expect that number to rise.
Author and activist Naomi Klein, just arrived from Zuccotti Square in New York, arrived on the scene to tell the crowd that “Americans have a unique responsibility to protests these economic policies that result in so much hardship around the world.” Having seen the energy unleashed by what some have called the “American Autumn,” Klein said (I’m paraphrasing here) that ‘we had all underestimated the amount of radicalism that was simmering out there.’
A few observations. First, perhaps 2-3 percent of the crowd fit the stereotype of a San Francisco protester. There were retro long-hairs and dreadlocks, Lady GaGa-style “rad queers for economic justice” and the like. And those who looked the type were magnets for the many representatives of the corporate media who came out, who gathered around them snapping pictures like it was some kind of safari. The overwhelming majority of those gathered looked perfectly “mainstream” — young and old, poor and middle-class — but received little face time. So, it’s good to keep this in mind when you process images of the protests — just outside of the picture of that freak are probably a whole bunch of “normal” looking folks.
Contrary to some reports, it was a very diverse crowd. I would estimate that 25-30 percent of the protesters were people of color.
The police appear to have no sense whatsoever about public relations in the age of the cell-phone camera. At one point, they decided to bring out a series of barriers to separate the protesters from busy traffic in Montgomery Street. In order to place the barriers in line, they shoved a pregnant woman with a small child on her shoulders. One said she was putting her baby in harm’s way. Whatever one thinks about that, the reality is that despite the fact that they wer surrounded by cameras, they shoved her around only to place that barrier one foot closer to the sidewalk.
To the skeptics finding fault with this movement’s tactics or messaging, I can only say that the energy on the streets is something one has to experience viscerally to grasp. There is something happning here, of that I have no doubt.
PS: Sorry about the bad cellphone pix.